I’m the parenting editor and writer here. I should be totally behind programs like Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Right?
The idea is a good one: Show your kids what you do all day. Show them that men and women both work. Hard work in school means you can do cool things at work. This is why you don’t see your parents till dinner time. I deal with this really.boring.meeting so you can get new shoes, kid!
All I could think was: “Could there be a worse way to spend my work day?”
There’s no way I would bring my second-grader (not going to even talk about the 5-year-old) to work tomorrow. And I will admit I felt a little guilty about that, at first. I got an e-mail from a colleague saying his son desperately wanted to come, so he was checking to see whether he’d have other kids to hang out with. Nope. Not me. This workplace, this crazy, crazy workplace, is my time. MINE!
So for my colleague’s sake, I asked a group of parents who work here whether they were bringing their kids. Though our workplace welcomes kids, there isn’t a program in place to occupy them this year. So there’s that. (Some workplaces go all out for the kids. Think NIH and cadavers. Check out what NBC does.)
Other colleagues made jokes about how their little ones should run our morning meeting. (An editor who will remain unnamed suggested headlines: “I Took My Kid to Work. They Fired Me and Hired Him,” which of course led to a comment about the economic downturn.)
I finally piped up: “Y’all are crazy. I come to work for some peace!”
Work here isn’t peaceful, actually. Not even close. But what’s not to love about that? Constant conversation, open office environment (I know, I know), the TVs blaring in the background (I sit near the sports section, so I’m up on day games, folks), the chance to THINK.
In other words, to think and not have to tie shoes, referee arguments, tell someone to stop stepping on my feet, ask them to blow their nose. I like that stuff a lot, but not when I’m trying to get work done.
Said one local mom who is both a professor and an attorney: “Between the school vacations, parent-teacher conference days, completely incomprehensible no-school days, and sick days, my kids are regular fixtures in my office. The thought of taking them out of school for yet another day for this gives me hives.”
Granted, she added, she’s not against the idea in general. “Exposing our kids to what we do when we are not driving them to practices, games, school, and making them dinner is an important and really valuable exercise. If you work in an environment in which you cannot bring your kids to work on a normal day, then it makes much more sense.”
She’s right. My own kids do come here from time to time. But only when things are slow, and just for a little bit of time. A weird weekend where my husband or I have something to get done. A swap of children when there’s an activity downtown. But a mid-week day at the office? I will tell you now: The amount of work I’d get done is, well, nothing.
The other reaction I had when my colleague asked if I’d be bringing my kid was incredulity at him missing school. What about his spelling test? Learning about graphing? Something Common Core-y that I wouldn’t later be able to explain?
I talked to a spokesman at D.C. Public Schools about whether kids are even excused from school for a thing like this. They are. Kids have to write a letter explaining what they learned, which is, of course, the whole point of this day. Share with the class! (And this, it was explained to me, is why this day is always the third Thurday of April, during the school year and not in the summer.) “At DCPS, TODSWD is both encouraged and excused – however there are stipulations to the excused absence. In order to reinforce the learning opportunity, students must compose a letter and submit it to their guidance counselor within 48 hours of TODSWD (extended to Monday, in this case). The letter should include the name of the parent/guardian; the name of the place of business in which the parent/guardian works; three things the student noticed about the work the student observed; the most difficult/most rewarding part of the work; and two steps that anyone interested in getting a similar job must do before they apply.”
Wonderful idea. Though I can just see it now. The three things the student noticed about the work: 1. BORING. 2. MOM TYPES FAST. 3. GOOD TREATS ARE OUT ON A TABLE HERE THAT EVERYONE CALLS THE “CALORIE COUNTER”
The most difficult/rewarding part of the work? 1. SEEMS BORING 2. HAVE YOU SEEN THE MESS ON HER DESK? 3. WHEN SHE’S DONE WITH A TASK, SHE VISITS THE “CALORIE COUNTER.”
I spend my work days rushing to get it all done so I can get home to feed my family, throw some balls in the front yard before forcing them to take a shower, and then, eventually, read with them. Having my (wonderful, smart, perfect in every way) child with me all day means I will not get enough done. My work time is precious because I’m always rushing to get out of here to get home to them. Even one day of having him here would mean I’d have to tack on work hours afterward or on the weekend, which, let’s face it, we all do enough already anyway.
Plus, that boring thing. “Most D.C. area jobs entail sitting at a desk, talking on the phone and going to boring meetings. There is a lot of pressure to try to gin something up to show your kid a good time because they all get to school the next day and compare notes about how fun their day was and how ‘cool’ their parent’s job is,” another colleague said.
Her kids might be the only ones in school, she said, because, as she told them, “I’m not taking you out of school to sit in my office and watch me type on deadline.” (They already know Mom gets mean on deadline.)”
Carolyn McKecuen, the program’s executive director, said this whole taking a kid to work thing works a lot better if there is something for them to do. “You have to make sure the organization has set up a day and it’s not just a running play date,” she said. She then went on to nominate me to organize ours for next year. You know, in my spare time. “It’s a great way for them to learn,” she said.
And it is. Another local mom said her workplace has an entire day planned, and she’ll make a presentation on legislative work in front of the kids, including her own three. That makes sense. It makes me proud, in fact. I want my kids to be proud of me and get excited about what’s to come in their lives, too. I mean, the program initially started to show girls they could have a career someday. Awesome. And President Obama is using it as a way to show children who don’t have a workplace to go to what they can do someday. (Kids with the Boys and Girls clubs will be heading to Pennsylvania Avenue.) Totally awesome.
But as for my boys? I love my kids. I love my work. I love that they know I work and their dad works and that works for us.
But I love the separation. (Mostly.)
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